Scientists have discovered fossils of a previously unknown primate in southern Germany. The fossils of Danuvius guggenmosi, which lived 11.62 million years ago, suggest that it was well adapted to both walking upright on two legs as well as using all four limbs while climbing.
The researchers say their analysis of the fossils show that Danuvius were able to walk on two legs nearly twelve million years ago. Up to now, the oldest evidence of an upright gait is a mere six million years old, and was found on the Mediterranean island of Crete as well as in Kenya.
The Danuvius guggenmosi fossils were discovered between 2015 and 2018. The team’s findings indicate that Danuvius could walk on two legs and could also climb like an ape. The spine, with its S-shaped curve, held the body upright when standing on two legs. The animal’s build, posture, and the ways in which it moved are unique among primates. “Danuvius combines the hindlimb-dominated bipedality of humans with the forelimb-dominated climbing typical of living apes,” says Professor David Begun, a researcher from the University of Toronto. These results suggest that human bipedality evolved in arboreal context over 12 million years ago. “In contrast to later hominins, Danuvius had a powerful, opposable big toe, which enabled it to grasp large and small branches securely,” says Professor Nikolai Spassov of the Bulgarian Academy of Science.
Danuvius was about one meter in height. Females weighed about 18 kg, less than any great ape alive today. The male would have tipped the scales at about 31 kg, also at the low extreme of modern great ape body size. The ribcage was broad and flat, and the lower back was elongated; this helped to position the center of gravity over extended hips, knees and flat feet, as in bipeds. Several key-features of human bipedality have been found on bones from the leg.